Sports - Rugby

Sonny Bill Williams slammed for sharing graphic images of dead refugees

Sonny Bill Williams against Australia in the Rugby World Cup final on October 29
Sonny Bill Williams against Australia in the Rugby World Cup final on October 29 AFP

All Blacks star Sonny Bill Williams has sparked controversy by posting graphic images of dead Syrian children on his Twitter account. The 2015 rugby world cup champion and UNICEF ambassador visited settlements in Lebanon's Bekaa Valley earlier this month, to raise awareness about the plight of child refugees.

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In an emotional post, Sonny Bill Williams shared two explicit pictures of dead children covered in blood on his Twitter account.

The All Blacks centre, posted the images following his visit to Syrian refugee camps in Lebanon at the beginning of December.

"What did these children do to deserve this?" he wrote, asking followers to "share a thought for innocent lives lost everyday in war."

But a UNICEF New Zealand spokesman condemned the post, saying that while Williams' emotional reaction to the situation was admirable, the charity could not condone publicising pictures of dead children.

Patrick Rose said that it was not up to UNICEF to tell people how to deal with their personal shock, but that posting the pictures online was a breach of the children's rights.

The graphic images met with mixed reactions by social media users, with many people criticising Williams for what they perceive as a lack of respect.

One Twitter user said: "MayB Im wrong but I don't share graphic pictures of dead children 2 advance my views & I unfollow those that do."

Others simply questioned why he did not put a "graphic images warning" on his post, since many young people follow the rugby star on Twitter.

Meanwhile the decision to share the images was supported by some social media users, who praised Williams for raising awareness.

"It's a ferocious reality. Good on him for sharing," one Twitter user wrote.

Williams, a UNICEF ambassador, has been campaigning for the cause of child refugees fleeing war in Syria.

He kept a video diary during his trip to Lebanon, where the rugby world cup champion and heavyweight boxer discovered the reality of the refugees' plight.

"It's a pretty humbling experience," he said in one of the videos. "Hopefully we can shed some light on what's going on here and hopefully give them a better way of living." 

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